Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Business Plan

This is a subject I never expected to talk about, and as you will soon find out, one I don’t know much about either, but it is something that has become important for me to do and I wanted to share it. This blog was started with the intention of being a place I could talk about any issues to do with writing, not a personal diary as such but things that might relate to people who have an interest in reading, writing and the emerging ebook world. This is one of those subjects that overlaps into the personal so please stay with me if I veer off a bit…I have come to a point in my life where I need to examine my writing, not in terms of my skill or confidence, but in terms of my personal and business aims, as to be honest, I feel a bit lost. It throws up all sorts of uncomfortable issues I don’t feel especially ready to address, but I must, and I want to talk about it here.

All I ever wanted to do was to write short stories. After fifteen years plus of thinking about it and telling myself one day I’ll get around to it, I finally got my head in the right place to start and the habit of daily writing was soon established and I felt pretty damn good about myself. It was only after I finished my first story that the idea formed in my head to self publish (once I had read about the new opportunities in eBooks.) It was then the idea of setting up my own company came to me, there was no reason to do it, I could happily do without a limited company, but there was something inside me that said, take it seriously, pretend it is official and you’ll treat it that way. It was in that order. Write first. Business second. It never occurred to me that it would be anything more than just a hobby.
Now the truth is, it may never be more than just a hobby but there are two ways to look at it, a hobby that I do in my spare time or a hobby that I treat as my profession with the understanding I will never make money from it! That may sound strange and naïve but it’s the way I feel. As I get older I feel that what I am inside, what I have tried to ignore or consciously push out of my mind, is an artist. I work in an art and design university so I fully understand what a loaded phrase that is, ‘I AM AN ARTIST!’…it makes me feel like a little bit of bile is climbing up the back of my throat…but as clichéd as it maybe, if you feel like an artist then you probably are. You don’t need to have a discipline, you don’t need to be known, you don’t need to be famous, you don’t need to be rich…you just have to know yourself and keep attempting to know yourself better, which is often the most difficult thing out of all of those. I think there is a Stephen King quote somewhere, sorry for not looking it up, that says something like if you have no money and you can’t pay the bills and one day you earn money by your writing even if it is enough to just turn on a light bulb then you can call yourself a writer. (Please rearrange that into the correct version.) Anyway, of course that is right, if you have a job and earn money from it then that is what you describe yourself as, you are an electrician, you are an accountant, you are a police officer…if you spend 50 hours a week plumbing people’s bathrooms you don’t describe yourself as a footballer just because you play for a local team every Sunday morning.
So anyway, with that in mind, why I am I doing a business plan? Well, I’m cheating a bit because I’m not really. I’m not going to send it to any bank managers, investors or fundraising sites. I have no intention of putting anything on there that remotely suggests it is a financially viable option. What I am doing it for is to continue what I did in the first place, to think of it professionally so I work at it professionally. It is going to be a business plan, reference document, tutorial how-to guide, strategy and vision in one.


I have decided to take January off from writing as I have so many things bubbling around my head that I need to get them all down in one place and get some focus back. Since that nice idea of simply writing every day for pleasure I’ve discovered the online community of self publishing, editing, formatting, cover design, copyright, file conversions, indie writers, gazillions of social media platforms, marketing, promotion, book trailers, recordings, interviews, blogging, working with other authors to publish their books through my company and a hundred other activities that were not even in my consciousness when I started. It all takes so much time and as enjoyable, interesting and stimulating as it is, it takes time away from writing.
I need to get it all into order, as much as I may structure my time, it still happens that I end up doing lots in one area but not as much as I wanted in another.   I’m now taking time out to put everything I have done into one comprehensive document. I am going to use the business plan format to make sure my vision for what I want to achieve is thoroughly examined.
I know this isn’t the most enthralling of subjects but if anyone reads this and feels a bit overloaded with ideas then all I can say is get organized. It feels painful taking time away from writing and in an ideal world it would be great if we had all the time we needed to do both but in reality we don’t and I really feel the need to get myself totally up to date with my thoughts before moving on.

·      Where am I going?
·      Why am I doing this?
·      What is the point?
·      What do I want to achieve?
·      What ideas do I have for Thinking Plainly Limited?

These are hard questions to answer, each one of those questions has a hundred sub questions. I have a lot of fear being honest, some of my answers go from the boring and mundane and ordinary to the ridiculously ambitious, ludicrously hopeful and overwhelming…but if you can’t be honest then you can’t ever move on and that’s what I need to do now, reflect as brutally as I can and give myself not just a kick up the backside to keep working harder, but a focused direction and clear goals that mean I will work with discipline and confidence.
When I interact with people, whether it be on email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, LinkedIn….on and on it goes…I know that there is so much more I can do to maximize the essential marketing and promotion that goes with being a writer, here's an example of just a few out of the hundreds of things on the checklist:

·      Am I using Amazon’s KDP promotion days correctly?
·      Am I utilizing Twitter hastags properly when promoting free days?
·      Am I posting on eBook give away Facebook pages in time?
·      Am I asking for reviews from customers?
·      Am I utlising Goodreads and Shelfari properly?
·      Am I developing a good SEO strategy?
·      Am I advertising my website enough?
·      Am I using Google Analytics correctly?
·      Am I contacting reviewers and bloggers?
·      Am I developing my social media strategy for eBook trailers, audio downloads, filmed interviews, Google+ hangouts…?
·      Am I far enough forward with my website Media Page plans?

The list of detailed questions that I have to remind myself about every day is so long that I cannot cope with having it all in my head, I need to prioritise, plan and develop in a logical and beneficial way…while still writing.
That is why I need that all-inclusive document I mentioned above but in my head I’m calling it a business plan, because as much as I feel I am an artist in the way I believe in art, I am also a business man in the way I believe in business. If I am to achieve anything, it is me that has to do it, no one is going to do it for me, so it may be a waste of time in some people’s eyes but I certainly need it. So far the document is 75 sides of A4…I’ll let you know how it goes.

I think I’ve over-run my normal hour as I took a break to eat some peanuts and drink a cup of tea, if that’s not a professional attitude then I don’t know what is.


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